Chambers Plumbing & Heating, Inc., located in Loveland, CO, provides clients with premium plumbing services. Below are a common questions we receive and answers. If you don’t see your question listed, please feel free to contact us by e-mail at chambersph@yahoo.com or by phone at 970-667-3050.

Air Conditioning and Swamp Coolers

Question: What is the difference between a swamp cooler and air conditioning?
Answer: A swamp, or evaporative cooler, allows water to flow over absorbent pads. When warm air passes through the pads, it causes the air to cool off, which is then distributed through a room. The humidity also increases in the home. An air conditioner pulls air over a coil within your furnace, which cools the air and distributes the cooled air throughout the home via the air supply ducts and heat registers. An air conditioner will also take humidity out of the air. You should never try to use an AC and a swamp cooler at the same time since they will fight each other for supplying and removing the humidity.

Question: Will I save money by waiting until the house gets hot to turn on my AC?
Answer: No. If you do this, your AC will likely never completely catch up. Find a comfortable temperature and let your AC maintain that temperature throughout the day and night. It will turn on and off as needed and keep your home comfortable.

Question: I have heard, at the end of January 2006, that the standard SEER efficiency for air conditioners will be 13. Will I still be able to get a 10 SEER unit and if so, is it legal to use it?
Answer: Yes, the standard will be 13 SEER. If you can find a 10 SEER unit you can install it and it is legal to run it. They won’t manufacture anything less than 13 SEER after January 2006.

Fixtures, Faucets, and Disposals

Question: My kitchen faucet flows well through the spout, but the hand spray won’t work properly. What could cause this?
Answer: The diverter valve in the body of the faucet is probably the problem. These are available at some hardware stores and plumbing shops. If this still doesn’t help, change the spray head.

Question: A lot of water comes out of the tub spout, but not much out of the showerhead. Why doesn’t the shower work?
Answer: Either the diverter on the spout is bad or the diverter built into the faucet body needs to be repaired.

Question: When I put water in my lava sink, the water leaks out of the bowl in just a few minutes. How can this be fixed?
Answer: This can be fixed by adjusting the pop-up rod located under and at the backside of the sink. In some cases, the O-ring or gasket needs to be replaced or the pop up, itself, needs to be replaced.

Question: My disposal was working fine and it just quit while I was using it. What did I do?
Answer: Disposals have heat overload built into their motors. If you use the disposal for a long time it will shut itself down when it overheats. Usually, if you let it cool down for a while and reset the little push switch button on the bottom of the disposal it will resume normal operation. Another cause for the disposal stopping is something lodged under or between the blades and the inner wall of the disposal. This can sometimes be fixed by using a broom handle or wooden dowel to pry the blades free. Never put your hands in the disposal!

Forced Air Heating

Question: How often should I replace my furnace filter?
Answer: It is very important to keep your furnace running efficiently and safely. You should replace your filter at least every six months. In particularly dusty environments you should replace it every 3 months at a minimum.

Question: How often should I have my furnace checked?
Answer: You should have your furnace checked at least once a year. This will insure that your furnace is safe and operating as efficiently as possible.

Question: How will I know if my furnace is safe?
Answer: Have your furnace checked at least once a year. Older furnaces are vulnerable to failure. If a heat exchanger should crack, carbon monoxide can leak into the air in your home. This can be very dangerous and can even cause death since you can’t smell or see it. It is particularly dangerous at night as you sleep.

Question: My furnace smells as if something is burning when I first turn it on in the fall. What causes this?
Answer: When your furnace fires for the first time, it burns off the dust and lint around the heat exchanger causing the burning smell. This is one reason you should have your furnace checked and cleaned each year before the heating season.

Question: If I turn my thermostat way down at night, will I save a lot on energy costs by doing this?
Answer: No. You should never vary the temperature more than about 5 degrees. If you swing the temperature more than 5 degrees, your house, furniture, walls, and floors get cold enough that it takes more energy to heat them back up than it does to maintain a 5-degree swing. Find a comfortable temperature and don’t vary it a lot.

Gas Lines

Question: It seems that when I first came home from work and walked by the furnace room that I got a little whiff of natural gas. Is this something I should be concerned about?
Answer: Yes. Natural gas and propane are nothing to leave to chance. Both are very dangerous if there is a leak. The slightest spark or flame can cause a potentially lethal blast and fire. If you smell gas, it is best to have it checked immediately. It is best if you get out of the house. Go to a neighbor’s house or use a cell phone outside to call the gas company or a qualified technician to fix the problem.

Question: I would like to hook up a gas dryer where my electric one is now. Is this something I should try to do myself?
Answer: Unless you are experienced with piping connections it is best to let a professional tackle this job. Proper tightening and testing for leaks is essential for safety.

Tankless Water Heaters

Question: Will a tankless water heater do everything my tank water heater will?
Answer: Yes, if the tankless is sized and installed properly, you will not be disappointed. Tankless water heaters will give you endless hot water and only use fuel while hot water is in demand.

Question: Do tankless water heaters really save on the gas bill?
Answer: The Rinnai water heaters are very efficient and have consistently saved from 20% to 35% if they are used as designed. The standard Rinnai Tankless is 82% more efficient and the new Rinnai Condensing Tankless is 95% more efficient.

Drain, Waste, and Vent

Question: When I do the wash, water and suds come up in my basement floor drain. It always seems to go down after a while. Is this something I need to address now or is this normal?
Answer: This is not normal. There is probably some sort of an obstruction downstream in your main line that is slowing the flow down. If left unresolved, it will eventually block completely and all of the sewage from every fixture before it will back up into the basement. It would be advisable to have it snaked and camera the line to isolate the problem before it gets worse.

Question: I have a house that was built in the 40s. Everything in the house seems to drain well except for the kitchen sink. Why would it be the only one?
Answer: It could be that it has a build-up on the inside of the drain line from grease and years of use. Or it might still be hooked up to an old grease trap outside the house. In the early days, they used to run the kitchen sink drain into a grease trap and then out to the main drain. There are still a few active grease traps on older homes. A qualified plumber can determine if it is still in use and determine what should be done to eliminate the grease trap.

Question: Every year or so my bathtub drain gets really slow. I call a plumber out and he gets it going again. Is there any safe product that I can use in that drain to prevent this problem?
Answer: Yes. There are several biodegradable products on the market that, if used regularly, will dissolve hair and body oils that clog the drain. These products won’t hurt the pipes and are not harmful to humans or pets. Bioclean is one of the better products that will keep your drains running freely. It is available at plumbing shops, hardware stores, and some grocery stores.

Traditional Tank Water Heaters

Question: Do I need a new water heater if the water sometimes comes out rusty?
Answer: In most cases, the rusty water can be from old pipes coming into the water heater. If this happens, the first thing you should do is drain some water out of the water heater from the drain valve at the bottom. This will flush out the sediment and rust that has settled to the bottom. If you have all copper pipes coming from the meter and in the house, the rust can be a sign of the inner glass lining of the heater starting to fail and the metal shell starting to rust. Have a plumber check it out to determine the exact problem.

Question: My water heater is leaking water out of the relief valve pipe. What is causing this?
Answer: It is possible that the relief valve is starting to fail and should be replaced. Another cause is thermal expansion. This happens when the water heater heats up and the water expands causing a short burst of high pressure making the relief valve pop off. If a thermal expansion tank is installed in the water line, this will allow for hot water expansion.

Question: Can I replace my electric water heater with a gas water heater?
Answer: In most cases, there is a good chance that a gas water heater can be installed. A gas unit requires an exhaust vent. The standard is to vent through the roof. This requires cutting through the ceilings, floors above, and the roof. Another way is to use a sealed combustion power vent type. These can be vented directly out through a sidewall. They vent and draw fresh air from the outside typically using PVC piping. In both types, you will have to bring a gas line from either the meter or another existing line if it is not big enough to handle the demand.

Question: The pilot on my water heater won’t stay lit. What could cause this to happen?
Answer: On standard gas water heaters a heat sensor, such as a thermal couple, controls the pilot. This is a copper looking tube that goes from the gas control valve back into the pilot. Its probe should be positioned in the pilot flame. If it is working properly it will sense the heat from the pilot and hold the pilot valve open and the pilot will continue to burn. Over time they fail and should be replaced if the pilot won’t stay lit. If it still won’t stay lit, consult a plumber for a more extensive diagnosis.

Question: Sometimes I hear water dripping on the burner of the water heater after we wash or take showers. It always seems to stop, but what is causing this?
Answer: When a lot of hot water is used at one time, the water in the tank gets cold enough that the air in the vent that goes up through the middle of the water heater condenses and drips down on to the burners. As the water heats up, the condensing stops and won’t do it again until you use enough water to lower the temperature in the tank substantially.

Boilers, Baseboard Heat, In-Floor Radiant

Question: I’ve been thinking about getting a new boiler. With the efficiency of the new boilers, is it really worth the investment?
Answer: The new boilers are so much improved over what we have seen in the past that they are, by all means, worth the investment. The tax credits and the Excel rebates help a lot with the price. You will also experience from 25% to 35% savings on your gas bill. The comfort range will be very stable at any outdoor temperature when the system is sized right. The modulating gas valve will adjust the burners to the right BTU output for a comfortable home.

Question: How often do I need to have my hot water boiler checked?
Answer: You should have your boiler checked at least once a year. It should be checked over and the pumps should also be oiled if needed. The zone valves should be checked to see that they are opening and closing properly. The system should be purged to remove any air from the system.

Contact us to answer any questions you have about our plumbing services. We proudly serve residents and business owners in Loveland and Fort Collins, Colorado, as well as the surrounding areas.